low attendance: Anti-fascist demonstrators outnumber defence league members at Aarhus rally by more than 20 to 1
Anti-fascist demonstrators outnumbered far-right supporters more than 20 to one in Denmark as an English Defence League-led attempt to form a pan-European movement was humiliated.
Estimates suggested as few as 160 defence league members from several countries gathered at the inaugural far-right summit in Aarhus for the European counter-jihad meeting, devised to “send a clear message to the leaders of Europe” that Islamism would not be tolerated.
EDL leader Tommy Robinson admitted only 15 supporters from England made the trip, despite earlier speculation that hundreds might attend. By comparison, an anti-fascist demonstration in the same city, to protest against the arrival of the EDL, attracted up to 4,000 people.
Fears of violence had seen local police mount their biggest operation on the Jutland peninsula with the tense atmosphere amplified by the start of the trial this month of Anders Behring Breivik, the far-right extremist and anti-Islamist who confessed to the murder of 77 people in Norway last July.
A cohort of the Norwegian Defence League travelled to Aarhus. Although none condoned Breivik’s actions, some said they shared his frustrations. One, who gave his name only as Simon, from eastern Norway, said: “He had some important points. There are people who share his thinking, if not his methods.”
The low turnout in Aarhus is in fact the second time the EDL has travelled abroad to try to forge alliances. Its first attempt, in Amsterdam in 2010, was widely dismissed as a “damp squib”, attracting about 60 supporters who were met with fierce opposition from Ajax football fans and anti-racist supporters. Robinson, the main attraction at the Aarhus summit, was unrepentant despite even fewer of his followers appearing, saying: “Just wait until there are hundreds of us coming in.”
Numerous brief scuffles throughout the day between the two groups led to more than 80 arrests as protesters hurled rocks and bottles at each other.
From The Guardian . Report by Mark Townsend. 31.03.2012